In talking with some of my students I notice that the topic of Stand Ups has not been fully comprehended. Agile is an important topic, but one that can easily fall by the wayside as you are learning design or development topics. It doesn’t feel as immediately necessary as writing code or building wireframes. I get it. Producing assets for your portfolio is rightly at the fore-front of everything you think about. So what is a Stand Up and what does that have to do with your work in tech.
Agile is the common language of software development, and thus will be encountered in the majority of the careers involved in design and development. A main “ceremony” (that’s what events or meetings are called in Agile) is the daily Stand Up. Now, you can Stand Up or sit down. You can run them daily or weekly, but essentially. The Stand Up (also known as the daily scrum) is rightly named because it is meant to be short, hence, standing. “Don’t bother to sit, this will be quick.”
In the Stand Up team members, report on three very specific things. It’s the scrum master’s job to facilitate the reporting process which should take approximately 2–3 minutes. Here are the questions that the members is asked to answer:
What did you do yesterday?
What will you work on today?
What roadblocks do you have?
It’s the scrum master’s job to facilitate (though not necessarily solve) the roadblocks as reported. Sometimes, the scrum master can coach the member to solve their own roadblock. Other times, another team member can help. If a Product Manager (who may or may not be at the meeting) is required to solve the problem or communicate to outside stakeholders to get the information, the roadblock may be solved later that day or week. This is an important part of the process — holding each other accountable. It’s not a blame game. “I can’t do my work until…”. It’s an accountability discussion meant to facility the work of the product team.
Helpful in your process
While daily Stand Up’s and Agile are not immediate needs to know before you get hired, they can be very helpful in the learning process because you’ll begin to see what your daily worklife will look like. I encourage my students to perform this process and designate or take turns being the scrum master. It is helpful to understand what work is required and learning how to hold yourself accountable.
In addition to the daily stand up, team members meet at the beginning of and end of each sprint time period of work in which work is committed to — typically two weeks. Sprint planning and backlog grooming may be done with partial team members or the whole team. Typically at the end of the sprint a sprint demo (revealing the work that has been done) and a sprint retro (improving on the agile process) with the entire team are held. Stakeholders such as marketing and executive teams are invited. The Product Manager is present and should not be surprised by the output that is demo’d.
By performing some of these same functions as you are going through the learning process, your clarity around the work will improve and potentially your motivation as your fear is reduced.
Running an effective Stand Up
Running an effective Stand Up involves honing your scrum master skills. You are techY mentor and Senior Agile Leadership coach at Dude Solution, Jill Sanderson says the keys to being an effective scrum master and agile team member are:
- Facilitation skills
- Communication skills
- Being curious
- Understanding process
- Technical understanding
- Change management
- Ability to scale
Jill says, the sweet spot of scrum master is the intersection of process, data and servant leadership!
Agile can feel like a logical system that greets you like a warm blanket as you enter tech. This is extremely helpful for a mom new to tech who views the whole tech industry as a blackbox that is hard to crack or understand. It makes it nearly impossible to understand how you “fit” in tech if you don’t really understand what a job in tech looks like.
Agile can help with this. Agile is the system and language that most software companies of the day use. Come in with any amount of knowledge in this space and you will absolutely bring value on day one. Finally, I want to really encourage you to attempt to run your own daily Stand Up. You can do that with your family or by gathering a working group of like-minded learners who are on your same journey. It’s one thing to read about or watch about Agile and another thing entirely to perform it yourself so go for it! Give it a try!